In the past five and a half years since starting with the Routeburn Track, I’ve done 24 multi-day walks (known as tramps in New Zealand), including all of the Great Walks (Tongariro Northern Circuit twice). Over 62 days I’ve walked over 1,000km, seeing some of the most spectacular and beautiful places in New Zealand (and probably the world), with 41 nights spent in a hut or camping. They’ve all got their merits but here is how I would rank them.
1. Routeburn Track, December 2013 and June 2017 (as day walk)
My first tramp, with great weather, which got me hooked. The sheer amount of incredible scenery over a relatively short track is hard to beat, though you’ll be sharing it with many others.
2. Travers-Sabine Circuit, Angelus Hut and Blue Lake detour, March 2016 and March 2020 (staying at Angelus Hut twice)
The most exhausting tramp I’ve done to date, taking five days but enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery of any walk I’ve done, and spending my first night alone in a hut, quite spooky during a storm.
3. Gillespie Pass Circuit and Lake Crucible side trip, December 2016
Possibly the best single day I’ve spent tramping (if one of the longest), heading up and down the 1,490m Gillespie Pass, then back up to the iceberg filled Lake Crucible.
4. Hump Ridge Track, December 2016
The most varied walk I’ve done, in three days covering endless beaches, epic views across the bottom of the South Island and Stewart Island, historic wooden bridges, and the remains of a forestry settlement. It also has very nice accommodation and is not usually that busy (as it’s run by the local community rather than DOC).
5. Tongariro Round the Mountain, April 2015
The best walk in one of my favourite places, walking through deserts (literally, the Rangipo desert), past volcanoes, and up and down endless hills.
6. Tongariro Northern Circuit, April 2014 and January 2015
The second best walk in the area, particularly once you turn off the ridiculously busy Tongariro Alpine Crossing and have the place to yourself.
7. Rees Dart Track (inc Dart Glacier side trip), April 2018
One of the more challenging walks in the area, and not one to do in bad weather, but on a good day this is a wonderful area, with great huts and an amazing day walk out to Dart Glacier and toward Cascade Saddle.
8. Milford Track, April 2015
Not the finest walk in the world, but still a pretty impressive one, particularly when 390mm of rain fell in a day, creating endless waterfalls, if also shutting the track while I was on it.
9. Breast Hill and Timaru River Tracks, December 2016
Regarded as one of the highlights of the 3,000km long Te Araroa Trail (running the length of New Zealand) and understandably so for a great hut and wonderful views across Lake Hawea, with Mt Aspiring in the distance.
11. Mount Somers Track, December 2017
An unexpected delight, incorporating many of the best bits of tramping into a day and a half circuit, with epic views, unusual rock formations, a decent summit walk, and a nice camping spot outside the hut.
12. Motatapu Track, April 2018
Physically the hardest tramp I’ve done, packing about 3,000m of ascent and descent into two days, hard on the ankles in particular, but worth it for exploring a beautiful part of the country between Wanaka and Macetown.
13. Rob Roy Glacier, Matukituki Valley, and part of Cascade Saddle, March 2017
I’d originally planned to head over Cascade Saddle and down the Rees Valley but aborted due to weather, but still packed in a quite incredible one day exploring the Matukituki Valley and spending the night in the historic Aspiring Hut. This is one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve been along, and the views from toward the saddle down the valley were unforgettable.
14. Kepler Track, December 2013 and June 2018 (as day walk)
I would have probably ranked this higher if I’d been able to see anything along the ridge section, but unfortunately I spent most of it walking through cloud. The walk out through Iris Burn was lovely though, and it is the Great Walk I would repeat. In June 2018 I did a day walk up to Luxmore Hut and back which was simply stunning, with snow and being above the clouds.
15. Tableland Circuit, April 2019
An enjoyably varied track with some unusual accommodation options (numerous rock bivys) and great views. About a third of the track is reasonably tough (from Mt Arthur Hut to Salisbury Lodge), the other two thirds is easy and well graded.
16. Heaphy Track, December 2014
The longest of the Great Walks was surprisingly easy, with a nice variety of landscapes and good new huts, but no significant altitude unless you take the unmarked track from Perry Saddle Hut up to the 1,238m Mount Perry summit.
17. Abel Tasman Coastal Track, January 2015
Beautiful yes, but by far the busiest track I’ve been on thanks to all the day walkers and boat access along most of the track. Harder work than expected as though the hills may not be huge there are a lot of them, particularly if you do it in a masochist two days.
18. Lake Waikaremoana Track, April 2016
The least well maintained Great Walk, which is a shame, but it does offer nice views of the lake and takes you through some of the most ancient and atmospheric forest in the country.
19. Greenstone Caples Track, June 2016
An easy and scenic if not overly spectacular walk, perfect (if cold) during winter to avoid the summer crowds.
20. Rakiura Track, September 2014
The least interesting Great Walk by some margin, but it has it’s moments and Oban is a great start / end point for the walk worth visiting.
21. Aotea Track, Great Barrier Island, November 2015
One of the best / few multi-day walks relatively close to Auckland, with Mt Heale Hut offering views of Little Barrier Island, and Mt Hobson 360 degree views over the whole of the Barrier.
22. Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit, November 2018
A great introduction to the Tararuas, famous tramping hills a couple of hours north of Wellington, notorious for bad weather. It is usually walked in 2-3 days, thus its inclusion here, but I walked it in a day, finding the Great Walk standard track relatively easy and fast.
21. Abel Tasman Inland Track, December 2015
Far less busy than the coastal track, but a tricky tree root fest offering few views.